By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed bills this week honoring fallen law enforcement officers and stiffening penalties for killing police animals in the line of duty.
Cuomo approved bills on Thursday naming four bridges in the state after officers who were killed, including one in East Fishkill. Dutchess County.
The bridge across the Taconic State Parkway on Hosner Mountain Road in East Fishkill will be named the "Correction Officer Gary L. Mitchetti, Jr. Memorial Bridge," after a decorated corrections officer who died in 2005 when his motorcycle collided with a car on that highway.
Before his death, Mitchetti earned various awards for his service, including the Correctional Services Medal of Merit and Valor, a Purple Heart from the New York Shields and a medal of valor from the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents.
The other bridges that will be named for fallen officers are in Utica and the two Long Island towns of West Babylon and North Hempstead.
"These bills honor the memory of the four law enforcement officers, all of whom put their lives on the line to protect their communities and their neighbors," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo also signed legislation on Wednesday to increase the charges against a person who kills a police dog or horse in the line of duty. Currently a Class A misdemeanor, the crime will be a Class E felony when the law takes effect Nov. 1.
"Police animals go where others will not in order to keep law enforcement officials and all New Yorkers safe from harm, and it's a tragedy when one is killed," Cuomo said in a statement. "This new law will hold the guilty parties accountable and offer better protections for these highly trained animals who are important members of our law enforcement community."
The law was proposed after a police dog was killed while investigating a shooting in Herkimer County in March.
Kurt Myers, 64, killed four people and wounded two others during a shooting spree that also claimed the life of Ape, an FBI K-9. Myers gunned down Ape while holed up in an abandoned building. FBI agents later killed Myers.
Also Wednesday, Cuomo signed another piece of legislation creating a waiver for a requirement that police dogs must be confined for 10 days after biting a person in the line of duty. The new law, which took effect immediately, allows for a local health department to waive the requirement as long as the dogs' rabies vaccinations are up to date.
"Our K-9 officers provide an invaluable service and should not be subjected to unnecessary confinement for simply doing their jobs," the bill's sponsor, Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, said in a statement. "We have taken another step forward to remove an additional costly mandate."